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Simpler Living Compassionate Life: a Christian Perspective

Morehouse Publishing, 2008
RRP: $34.95

Reveiwed by Karyl Davison

We live in a very ‘me-based’ society where well-being is more often than not equated with wealth and material accumulation.

Yet we, as Christians recognise not only that the abundance of life Jesus spoke of is about much more than material and financial success, but that consumerism itself leads to spiritual poverty.

First published in 1999, Simpler Living Compassionate Life is a collection of essays that explore voluntary simplicity as a way of living a more balanced, healthier and less selfish way of life.

It asks some critical questions: “How much is too much?” and “How can we justify our accumulation of possessions when it comes at the expense of those who have so little?”

The section “Time as Commodity, Time as Sacred” in particular asks why in economically affluent countries so many of us are constantly fatigued, overworked and stressed out and spending far too little time with our families.

It explores the growth in overwork and stress-related illnesses that result from the Western world’s desire for more.

How goods that were once considered luxuries are now seen as necessities, putting us into an insidious cycle of “work and spend” as we work longer hours to pay for our increased level of consumption.

More pointedly for me, there is an argument that we suffer from ‘time anxiety’ – that instead of living in the present we are too busy worrying about whether we are getting enough done.

Other topics covered include: the place of money in our lives; when enough (consumption) is enough; and the social and environmental impacts of over consumption and Western food choices.

In addition to the excellent collection of essays, Mr Schut also includes a very useful study guide for use in small groups. The study guide could also be adapted and used for personal reflection.

I highly recommend Simpler Living Compassionate Life.